If you want to stand out in a crowd, take pictures in a grocery store.
You’ve seen them, perhaps? Those hand scanners introduced recently to grocery stores? I’ve read where people refuse to use them because they do not want to be complicit with downsizing the clerks. I avoided them for a few weeks because I was afraid of them.
Gizmo Girl couldn’t stand it after a month, though, and on a busy Sunday afternoon tried it for the first time.
First bad idea: trying it on a Sunday afternoon, a very crowded time in my grocery store.
Second bad idea: I needed scallions and apples. The bar codes on the scallions wouldn’t register. I kept pulling the trigger of the scanner in front of the display like a scene from Reservoir Dogs. Nope. I had to go to the weigh station and print out a sticker.
Perspiration on my brow. The only good thing: no one else was using the weigh station, in fact, no one else had a scanner in their hand. I was the only one.
So, I followed the directions, entered the four digit code for scallions, put in quantity (2) and voila the label prints.
I’m looking around waiting for applause. No one is noticing my triumph.
Then, I go for my favorite apples: Honey Crisp. I put them on the weigh scale, again, no one is there. But, there is no Honey Crisp listed in the inventory. Gala, Macs, Empires, Pink Ladys, Braeburn, all the usual suspects are there, but no “Honey Crisp”. I look around for help. There is none. So, I try looking it up on the “Search” string on the scale computer. Nope, nothing comes up. I notice someone is waiting for the scale.
It’s a former career counseling client. A technology person. He’s got a scanner in his hand. It’s just the two of us geeks in a store of hundreds. Perspiration is now forming. I put Gala’s number in and print out the label.
A few minutes later as I am rounding a corner into the crowded “Sauce” aisle, this former client hails me in front of salad dressings, and wants to compare scanner displays, “Does yours advertise the same specials as mine,” he asks. People with the Hummer size shopping carts with kids in seats are now stacking up behind us.
Oh, yes, I said, trying to get out of the store now, forgetting what else I needed. I just wanted this little experiment to be over. He’s giving me an update on his career situation which I remember only vaguely as it was several years ago. He wants my thoughts on his career choices and on my scanner display sales items as I head for the exit sign and the registers. He finally lets the career discussion go, but is insisting on looking at my scanner display. “No, I don’t think your items are the same as my items,” and he offers to show me his scanner’s display.
At this point, I snap, “Listen, (his name), you are workin’ my nerves here. “
And, by the look on his face, apparently he got the message and disappeared into the cereal aisle.
I followed the directions at the register and get the automated voice. “Help is on the way.” Oh, Crap.
A lady says, “Hold on. Someone will be with you in a moment.”
A very nice lady comes and says cheerily, “Oh, hello, we’re just doing random checks, “ and she proceeds to check the items in the cart with what’s on my scanner inventory.
The apples and the scallions are missing from the inventory. I had forgotten to scan the printed label’s bar code after I created it.
“Oh” I said weakly. “I….I….” All I did was stammer. There were people lined up waiting for the register, including my former client, smiling, no, gloating. “I’m sorry I was rude, OK?” I wanted to yell to him, but didn’t, as the woman scanned in the offending produce and cheerily bid me farewell.
I got the hell out of there before anyone noticed my Honey Crisp apples were disguised as Galas.
Third bad idea: Shame is really not an emotion you want to trigger in your customer base, especially if she is an Irish Gizmo Girl–familiar with the territory of technology as well as shame.
©Pat Coakley 2008
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